The vagaries of the concrete surface at Bristol Motor Speedway shocked the NASCAR Cup Series drivers during Saturday’s time trials, but Ryan Blaney was best able to deal with the changes between rounds.

The reigning series champion navigated the 0.533-mile short track in 15.356 seconds (124.954 mph) in the second round of qualifying to claim the pole position for Sunday’s Food City 500 (3:30 p.m. ET on FOX, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

“The track kind of caught everybody by surprise,” said Blaney, who earned his first Busch Light Pole Award since April 2022 at Richmond, his first at Bristol and the 10th of his career.

“The time fall-off and the grip loss behind the wheel was incredible. It was like ‘Who can not mess up a lap and still put a decent time down?’ Great to get our first pole of the year, and ready to go tomorrow.”

Blaney’s Team Penske Ford was 0.020 seconds faster than the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Mustang of second-place qualifier Josh Berry (124.792 mph). Toyota driver Denny Hamlin was third fastest at 124.178 mph.
Team Penske’s Joey Logano qualified fourth, giving Ford drivers three of the top four starting spots. Chase Elliott was fifth in the fastest Chevrolet.

Blaney ran the fastest lap of the day in the first round (15.134 second) and opted not to try a second lap in the opening session. That strategy paid off, given the dramatic fall-off most drivers experienced in the money round.

“I think that was a big advantage for us,” said Blaney, who leads the series standings after finishing second, third and fifth in his last three races. “We got the good fortune of going out last in our group, so I could bail after one lap if we were in…

“A lot of teams and drivers, us included, are going to be really scratching our heads tonight, like, ‘What’s the track going to do tomorrow?’”

Chase Briscoe, who tied Hamlin for the second fastest overall lap in Round 1 at 126.528 mph (15.165 seconds), will start sixth on Sunday, followed by Michael McDowell, William Byron, Bubba Wallace and Kyle Larson.

Hamlin is the most recent winner at Bristol, having taken the checkered flag in last year’s Night Race.

— NASCAR Newswire —

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